InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Inauguration ( Chapter 226 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Two Hundred Twenty-Six~~

- OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'And now the times are changin'
'Look at everything that's come and gone
'Sometimes when I play that old six-string
'I think about you, wonder what went wrong …'

-'Summer of '69' by Bryan Adams.


"I can't believe you did that," Valerie murmured as Evan led her down the aisle and along the runner that led up to the patio of the vast mansion.  Reaching up to tug on the short wisps that brushed his neck, Valerie slowly shook her head.

Evan shot her a grin.  "I can't believe you're really my wife," he countered, looking entirely too pleased with himself to credit.  "Mrs. Evan Zelig, huh . . ."

"Mrs. Dr. Evan Zelig," she corrected, wrinkling her nose.  "I had to think about it," she admitted, heaving a little sigh as she slowly shook her head.  "If I had my way, I'd have postponed all this till your hair grew back."

"It's just hair," he argued as they stopped in the spot that they'd chosen to receive their guests.  "It'll be back by morning."

She sighed then shook her head once more.  "Considering we don't have the best track record of you with your short hair?  I think you undergo some kind of weird brain manipulation when your hair's short," she parried dryly.  "Not to mention the wedding pictures?  Maybe we can postpone them till we get back from our honeymoon . . . You realize, right?  Twenty years from now when I think back to our wedding, I'm going to remember that you chose today to flip out entirely."

"Well, you know," he drawled, a slow, lazy grin filtering over his features as his gaze shifted away.  "There were a couple of very pronounced benefits to it, even if I didn't think of them at the time . . ."

Following the direction of his gaze, Valerie wasn't surprised to see Gin and a very disgruntled-looking Cain making their way down the runner behind the wedding party and Jack.  Considering he resembled a freshly shorn sheep, Cain was holding up remarkably well, in Valerie's estimation.  "You're terrible," she chided, though her tone lacked any real censure.

He shrugged.  "I'll ask Jilli if she wouldn't mind doing the pictures tomorrow before we leave; how's that?"

She rolled her eyes, but broke into a smile. "Fine with me—just means that you can't rip or tear my dress tonight."

Evan heaved a sigh and carefully tugged her closer against his side to plant a kiss on her temple.  "Damn, I'm happy," he murmured.  "V Zelig . . ."

She chuckled softly and leaned in to kiss his cheek, then carefully rubbed the lingering trace of lipstick from his skin.  "I still prefer Mrs. Dr. Evan Zelig," she quipped.

He made a face, but his grin widened.  "You forgot the esquire part."

She wrinkled her nose as her eyes sparkled mischievously.  "Mrs. Dr. Evan Zelig, esquire . . . Though I don't think that it should be added to the end of that.  It makes you sound like the lawyer—or a professor of law."

Evan's smile dissipated as a fairly alarmed expression slammed down over his features.  "Good God, way to rain on my parade, why don't you?"

"You're right," she agreed with a shrug.  "The idea of you being an attorney or teaching some hapless law students to be attorneys?  I don't even want to go there."

"Afraid of who I'd pop a Get Out of Jail Free card?"

"Something like that."

"I can't believe you married him," Madison quipped as she tugged Valerie away from Evan's side long enough to give her a quick squeeze.  "I figured you'd realize what you were doing halfway through the ceremony and run."

"Hey," Evan complained, though the smile on his face widened as he grasped Madison's arm and pulling her into a very tight hug.  She giggled and leaned up to kiss his cheek.

"Welcome to the family," Bas remarked, ignoring Evan entirely as he gave Valerie a quick hug.  "And let me be the first to offer my sincere apologies for whatever that little devil does from here on out."

"Nice hair, Bubby," Evan quipped pleasantly.  Bas snorted but made no comment.

"You'd better step back," Gavin commented as he tapped Bas on the shoulder.  "You should also remember you're at a wedding, not a funeral," he added, nodding at the scowl on Bas' features.

Bas rolled his eyes and stepped back as Gavin gave Valerie's hand a quick squeeze.  She couldn't hide her amusement, though, as the big man's face erupted in a very becoming shade of pink, and he let go of her hand as quickly as he'd taken it.  Jillian had told her once that Gavin was better than he used to be in regards to his acute embarrassment when it came to women, but Valerie still thought it was cute.

"You should have run for the hills when you had a chance," Kurt remarked, leaning in to give Valerie a kiss on the cheek.  "They're psycho—the whole damn lot of them—but Evan's the worst of them all."

"Yeah, but they all like her, taiyja," Evan retorted with an unrepentant grin.

Kurt snorted.  "They . . ." trailing off for a moment as he deliberated the rest of his statement, Kurt gave up, digging one hand deep into his pocket as his daughter started shamelessly inspecting his person as though she were a cop, frisking a felon.  With a squeal of delight, Tanny pulled a small purple sucker from his other pocket, barely taking the time to strip off the protective wrapper before jamming it into her mouth and darting away from the adults.  "Well, they don't want to kill me anymore," he finished.

"Well, not all of us, anyway.  Something tells me that Kichiro still does," Evan added with a chuckle, reaching out a hand to beckon Kaci Lea closer.  "Damn, you look fine, K . . . Prettiest girl here, V notwithstanding."

Kaci Lea blushed and rolled her eyes despite the shy smile that brightened her eyes as she smoothed her dress self-consciously.  "Congratulations," she replied, blushing a little darker when Evan pulled her in for a hug.

Evan's smile widened.  "Save a dance for me, okay?"

"I don't think that'll be a problem," she replied, ducking her chin.

"Oh, I don't know," Valerie remarked a little too innocently.  "I could have sworn that one of Cain's associates' sons was looking your way at the dinner last night . . ."

That got Evan's attention quickly enough.  "Yeah?  Which one?"

"Umm . . . Martin Billings, I think . . . His son—uh . . ." Valerie ventured, affecting a thoughtful frown.  Then she uttered a cute little growl of frustration.  "I've met too many people lately!  You didn't tell me you were related to or acquainted with the entire population of the northern seaboard.  Anyway, what was his name . . .?"

Evan shot Valerie a thoroughly amused grin over Kaci Lea's head before sucking in an exaggerated breath.  "Oh, right, uh . . . It's right there, on the tip of my tongue . . ."

"Christian—Chris . . ." Kaci Lea murmured without raising her chin.

Valerie smiled.  "That's right!  Christian!" she allowed.  "He's a cutie.  His hair—" She suddenly turned toward Evan.  "Is that his real hair color?"

Evan blinked then chuckled.  It wasn't entirely surprising that Valerie had asked since Christian, like Martin, was a wind-youkai, and because of that heritage, their hair was a strange mix of earth-tone browns with an almost bluish hint of sun streaks through it.  Quite striking, really, given the pale blue-green of their eyes, too.  "I think so," he allowed with a shrug.

Valerie stared at him for another long moment, like she was trying to decide whether or not he was teasing her, but she nodded finally, turning that smile back on her sister.

Kaci Lea made a face and scrunched up her shoulders.  "I don't know that he'd be interested in me," she replied, her voice heavy with doubt.

"If he's got eyes, he'd be interested," Evan countered, slipping an arm around Valerie and sparing a moment to kiss her cheek.  "Just no running off to smooch or Garret's liable to blow an ass-gasket."

"All right, Zelig.  Stop hogging my daughter," Jack grouched, interrupting Kaci Lea's argument before she could begin.  He tried to look stern despite the smile on his face as Rhonda pushed his wheelchair toward the couple.  He'd sat in it after taking the trek to walk Valerie down the aisle.

Valerie leaned down  to kiss her father's cheek.  "Are you feeling all right?" she asked, frowning slightly at the pallor in Jack's face.

"I could have sworn I'd told you already: stop fussing over me and worry about this reception of yours, little girl."

She smiled, but the worry that lingered in her aura didn't dissipate.  True enough, Jack might not sense it since Valerie was doing her level best to hide it.  Evan, however, was entirely too attuned to the woman not to sense it very easily.

"I know I've already said it," Rhonda went on, her own smile, trembling and precarious, at best, as she leaned forward to give her daughter a careful hug, "but you look absolutely beautiful!"

Evan intercepted the very serious stare Jack was leveling at him and nodded once.

"Do better by her than I ever did," Jack murmured just loudly enough for Evan to hear him.

Evan didn't smile, but it was a near thing.  "Absolutely," he agreed without missing a beat.  "You have my word."

"No," Jack said, shaking his head slowly, the expression on his face deadly serious despite the heightened brightness in his gaze.  "You . . . You've got my daughter, so don't you ever forget it."


"You're going to miss him."

Madison blinked and started out of her reverie, leaning back far enough to look her dance partner in the eye.  Gunnar Inutaisho wasn't looking at her, though.  Staring past her at the happy couple, he had a slight scowl on his face—a thoughtful scowl.  "Who?  Evan?"  She laughed.  "They won't be gone on their honeymoon that long."

Gunnar's gaze shifted from Evan and Valerie to Madison.  "That's not what I meant," he said in a tone that indicated that she should have known as much already.  "Everything is going to change.  That's all."

Letting out a long exhalation, Madison suddenly broke into a wry smile.  "You mean that I can't sleep with him anymore," she concluded logically.  "You know, that ended a long time ago—right after he met her, actually."

Gunnar chuckled.  "Is that so?"

Madison nodded.  "We all have to grow up sometime, don't we?"

She was right, he supposed.  That was one of the things he'd always respected about Madison Cartham.  She knew the score, and she was resilient enough to go with it.  "Somehow, I highly doubt that marriage is really going to force that one to grow up," he remarked dryly.

"True, but it should at least be worth a few laughs, watching him muddle through it."

He chuckled again, his amusement adding a certain brightness to his bright amber eyes.

"Speaking of 'muddling through'," she said, her tone taking on a very pronounced wryness.  "Your date looks a little out of her element, don't you think?"

Following the direction of Madison's gaze, Gunnar wasn't surprised when he spotted Stephanie Lufstead standing off to the side, but what did surprise him was that she seemed to be deep in conversation with his mother and father, and, while Gunnar didn't think that Stephanie was exactly 'out of her element', he could sense even from the distance that she seemed rather ambivalent about the entire situation.  "She's fine," Gunnar allowed, dismissing it as though it were really of no concern.

Madison made a little sound low in her throat—almost a 'hm' noise, but not quite.  "She doesn't seem like your type, Gunnar," she remarked at length.  "Granted, I don't know you as well as some, but she seems a little more . . . free spirited than the ladies you normally date."

"She is," he agreed rather philosophically.  "Anyway, Steph and I have an understanding," Gunnar said.

That earned him a very direct stare.  "Is that what they're calling it these days?"

He chuckled and very deliberately turned so that Madison was faced away from the woman in question.  "Close enough."


"Do you want to do it all over again?"

Meara Izayoi raised an eyebrow at her mate, Morio.  "What do you mean?" she asked, smiling sweetly as he shuffled his feet, moving her slowly around in a circle.

He shrugged and shot her a goofy, lopsided grin.  "You know.  The whole wedding thing.  I mean, we didn't have a real one, so I thought maybe you'd want to have another . . ."

She wrinkled her nose, gray eyes igniting in an amused light.  "Ach, mon, dinna be daft," she replied, her native brogue drawing an even wider grin from Morio.   Then she cleared her throat despite the hint of pink that tinted her cheeks.  "Our wedding was just as real as anyone's.  Besides . . ."

He sighed as her smile faltered, as her gaze skittered away.  He knew what she was thinking, or rather, who she was thinking of, and he hated that his stupid question had hurt Meara.  Still, he willed himself to smile once more, and he pulled her a little closer.  "I was just thinking that it'd be pretty damn awesome to have another wedding night."

Meara leaned back, lifting her eyes to meet his again, but her smile returned as she rolled her eyes.  "I should have known . . ."

His chuckle was soft, husky.  "Can't blame a dog for trying, now can you?"

Meara's answer was a round of helpless laughter, and that, in Morio's estimation, was the ultimate payout.


"I can't believe that he managed to get married before you."

Mikio Izayoi blinked, hand dropping away from his twitching ear as he turned to face his nephew, Bas.  "Oh, I don't know about that," he muttered, shuffling his feet in the grass.  "I mean, it's not like I have anyone in . . . in mind . . ."

Bas grunted, crossing his arms over his chest as he watched Evan lean in to whisper something into his new bride's ear.  "Fifty bucks says the little miscreant's trying to talk Valerie into sneaking away from the reception."

That drew a smile from Mikio as he mimicked Bas' stance and pivoted to watch the couple, too.  "I never take a bet that I know I won't win."

Slowly, Bas shook his head as Evan took Valerie's hand and tried to hurry away from the dancers.  "I suppose I ought to go stop him," he mused thoughtfully.

"You're not going to?" Mikio prodded when Bas made no move to intervene.

He shrugged.  "Well, Dad's over there, so I suppose he can have the honors."

Even as he spoke, Cain stepped into Evan's escape path and pulled Valerie's hand out of Evan's with a smile.  Mikio chuckled as the North American tai-youkai paused to say something to the groom before pulling the bride back toward the dance floor.  "Nicely done, Cain-nii-san," Mikio murmured.

"And Evan looks fit to be tied, doesn't he?" Bas added.  "Definitely a plus, if you ask me."

Mikio nodded sagely.  "Are you sure he wasn't adopted?"

"Well, I definitely remember Mom getting big and round when she was pregnant," Bas drawled thoughtfully.  "But it wasn't like I was in there when she had him."

"So you're saying it's possible that there was some weird mix-up at the hospital?"

Scratching his chin, Bas nodded slowly.  "It would explain a helluva lot."

"Isn't there a rule about not badmouthing the groom by the best man on his wedding day?"

Bas chuckled and glanced down at his wife as she made her way toward them.  "No, I don't think there is," he replied with an unrepentant grin.

Sydnie uttered a sound from deep in her throat as she smoothed the pale pink sundress that she'd chosen for the occasion.  "Well, there should be."

"Sorry, sorry," Bas said without sounding sorry in the least.  "Want to dance, kitty?"

Sydnie made a face and shot her mate a sidelong glance.  "I don't think so."

"Because I was talking about Evan?"

Rolling her eyes, she stubbornly shook her head.  "Because you look nothing like my husband," she countered.

"That's totally not my fault!  It's . . . It's his!" Bas protested, waving a hand toward Evan, who had dragged Kagura Inutaisho out to dance.

He was saved from Sydnie's retort, though, when Olivia, with Takara in tow, ran over to them.  "Mama!  Mama!"

"Oh, what are you two up to?" she asked, hunkering down to fuss with Olivia's dress.  Takara raised her hands and hopped around Mikio's feet until he picked her up.

"We want cake," Olivia said in a stage whisper, leaning to the side to peer up at her father.

"It's not quite time for that yet, Livvy," Bas said, bending at the knees to kneel before his daughter as he held out his hands.  "You want to dance with Daddy?"

To Mikio's undisguised amusement, the tiny girl quickly shook her head and ducked behind Sydnie once more.  "Not my daddy!"

"Aww," Sydnie crooned, hugging her daughter and shooting Bas a very narrow-eyed glare.

Bas heaved a sigh and shook his head.  "Yet another reason to hate that little shit," he muttered, giving up as he pushed himself back to his feet once more.

"Nii-tan, dance!" Takara said, bouncing up and down in Mikio's arms to emphasize her request.

Mikio made a face.  "Sorry, Takara-chan.  Nii-tan can't dance . . ."

"Then it's a good thing that Onii-tama's here!" Ryomaru Izayoi said, scooping his youngest sister neatly out of Mikio's arms.

Bas snorted.  "Pfft!  Onii-tama, my ass," he muttered.

Ryomaru grinned unabashedly at Bas, sparing a moment to plant a very loud, very obnoxious kiss on Takara's cheek before swaggering away to dance with her.


"Do you want to go sit down for a bit?" Kichiro Izayoi asked, leaning away to peer down at Gin's face.  "You look a little tired."

Gin smiled up at her brother and shook her head.  "I feel fine," she assured him.  "You're almost as bad as Cain."

"Keh!  And that was a rotten thing to say to your favorite brother," he pointed out.

She giggled.  "Then we're even."

"Hmm . . . Speaking of Zelig, have you told him?"

She paused mid-step and shot Kichiro a guilty glance before resuming the dance once more.  "There hasn't been a lot of time," she hedged.

Golden eyes glowing in the late afternoon sunshine, he stared at Gin for several seconds.  "Don't you want to tell him?"

She made a face.  "It's not that I don't want to tell him," she said slowly, thoughtfully.  "It's just that he's already so worried, you know?"

Kichiro considered that for a moment then nodded.  "And you don't think he might be just a little irritated if you don't tell him beforehand?"

Gin shot her brother a petulant glance.  "Since when do you take his side, nii-chan?"

Kichiro snorted as he continued to slowly spin his sister around the dance floor.  "It's not about taking sides," he corrected gently.  "But you have a terrible habit of trying not to say or do things that you think might cause more trouble.  You'd think that you'd have learned that by now, wouldn't you?"

Heaving a sigh when her ears flattened, Kichiro relented.  "Anyway, just tell him soon, okay?"

"O-Okay," she agreed.

"All right.  You've danced with her long enough.  Go find my daughter, why don't you?"

Gin smiled and waited while Kichiro rolled his eyes but stepped back and offered Gin a slight bow before turning to look for his mate as Cain stepped in to dance with Gin.

He couldn't help the soft little chuckle that escaped when he spotted Bellaniece not far away, dancing with their son-in-law, Griffin.  The poor bear youkai looked like he would rather be anywhere than where he was at the moment, however.  True to form, Bellaniece leaned in, said something to Griffin that resulted in a very noticeable flush, and Kichiro slowly shook his head as he stepped forward to save him.

"Mind if I cut in?" Kichiro said, stopping beside the pair as he dug his hands deep into his pockets.

Griffin tried not to look completely relieved—tried, but failed.  "Oh, uh, sure."

Bellaniece rose up on tiptoe to kiss the huge man's cheek.  "Thank you for humoring your mother-in-law," she demurred as he stepped back to allow Kichiro to take his place.

"I-It's fine."

Kichiro chuckled as he watched Griffin lumber off, as he slipped his arms around his wife.  "What did you say to him?" he asked, arching an eyebrow as he pinned Bellaniece with a knowing look.

She blinked, casting Kichiro an overly-innocent gaze.  "I only asked how he was doing since his last surgery," she commented.  "Why?  Did you think I'd intentionally embarrass him?"

"Considering you think it's cute when he blushes?  Yeah, I think I do . . ."

Pursing her lips as she let her head fall to the side in an exaggerated show of deep thought, Bellaniece gave an offhanded shrug.  "Well, I might have asked him when he and Isabelle were planning on starting a family of their own . . ."

Kichiro tried to look stern, but he couldn't help the soft laughter that he couldn't contain, either.  "That's my Belle-chan."

She giggled, her scent wrapping around Kichiro with the comfort and familiarity that both exhilarated as well as humbled him.  "I'll be your Belle-chan," she nearly purred, raising her face, her lips hovering just out of range.

"Sex and wildflowers," he murmured.

She leaned up, nipped at his bottom lip.  "Whenever, wherever, lover."

Kichiro could only groan.


"Yasha-j iji looks . . . uh . . . pretty . . ."

Kagome laughed as Toga leaned down to kiss her cheek before turning her attention back to the hanyou, hunkered down on the ground under the shade of a very large white ash tree.  The summer breeze gently lifted his long, silvery hair, tossing errant strands to the wind.  He had his eyes closed, as though he were meditating.  Kagome knew better, mostly because there was simply no way that the two little girls darting around him would allow that.

"Hmm, he does, doesn't he?" she agreed, her smile widening as their youngest child, Takara ran to her father with her arms loaded with a riot of flowers, pilfered, doubtless, from Gin's massive gardens.  She dropped the blooms beside InuYasha before selecting the perfect one to slip into the hanyou's hair while Olivia did the same.

Toga slipped into the empty chair beside his aunt and chuckled.  "It's been awhile since I've had to endure that kind of thing," he admitted, his voice taking on a slightly rueful lilt.  After all, the youngest of his daughters had moved out of the family home a long while ago.

"If you're trying to say that you didn't enjoy playing with your daughters, I won't believe you," she chided gently.

Toga chuckled.  "Not at all . . . Some days, I miss being . . . pretty."

She laughed at his outrageous claim and leaned over to pat his hand.  "Come over any time.  I'm sure Takara would love to make you pretty, too."

Toga sighed and slowly shook his head, casting Kagome a rather serious look—very uncharacteristic from this nephew of hers.  He tended to be laid back most of the time, despite the daunting title of tai-youkai of Japan that he carried with ease.  She raised her eyebrows in silent question.

"Sierra wants to go back to college," he remarked at length, his gaze unconsciously scanning the crowd until he located his wife where she stood, chatting with Nezumi.  "Says her journalism skills could use a refresher course."

"And you don't want her to do that?" Kagome questioned since it didn't really seem like something that would put that kind of expression on Toga's usually cheerful face.

He shrugged offhandedly.  "It's not that," he assured her with a careless flick of his wrist.  "It's more that we'd also been talking about . . . you know . . . maybe having another pup . . ."

"Oh . . .!"

"Yeah."  He sighed again.

Kagome nodded slowly, tucking an errant strand of pitch black hair behind her ear as she considered Toga's admission.  "I take it you're more excited about the idea of having another baby than her going back to college?"

Screwing up his face in an expression that reminded Kagome of the little boy she'd first met all those years ago, Toga leaned to the side, resting his chin on a raised fist as he stared at Kagome for several long moments.  "I want her to do whatever would make her happiest," he replied.  "I mean, she could go back to school.  We'd just have to wait for the baby."

"And whose idea was the baby?"

Toga's gaze darkened considerably.  "Hers."  Then he made a face, sitting up straight in the chair once more.  "I don't know.  Maybe it's just because kaa-san's been talking about having another one, too, that Sierra thought about it.  But you know, it's not entirely fair for her to bring it up if she didn't want me to get excited about the idea."

Pressing her lips together to keep from laughing outright at the entirely pouty way that Toga had made the last statement, Kagome coughed delicately before responding.  "It'll work out, Toga.  Things usually do.  You'll see."

Toga heaved a longsuffering sigh, but he finally did break into a smile.  "It's your fault, you know.  Ever since you had Takara, okaa-san's been dropping little hints.  Tou-san blames Yasha-jiji . . ."  Then he laughed.  "Of course, when does tou-san not blame Yasha-jiji for everything?"

"Those two . . . You'd have thought they'd be over all that by now, those two . . ." Kagome snorted, uttering a sound that almost sounded like her mate's usual response to things like that.  "So your parents haven't made up their minds yet?"

Toga's face took on a pensive sort of look, his eyebrows drawing together thoughtfully, lips pursing, slipping to the side as he pondered Kagome's question.  "They haven't officially said anything to us, no, but she cancelled their annual trip to Hawaii, if that means anything.  I mean, if they have decided to go for it, kaa-san would be too far into it to fly by then."

Kagome nodded slowly.  "Is that right . . .?"

Holding up a finger in front of his lips, Toga gave a curt shake of his head.  "You didn't hear anything from me, though."

Kagome couldn't help the happy giggle that bubbled out, but she clapped a hand over her mouth, her eyes shining merrily as she leaned toward Toga.  "Don't worry.  My lips are sealed!"


"I' m surprised at you, Zelig ."

Cain blinked and glance at Sesshoumaru before shifting his attention back to the dance floor, or more exactly, at his wife being whirled around by the groom.  "Why's that?"

"You don't think she looks a bit tired?"

The slight scowl that surfaced on Cain's features didn't really surprise Sesshoumaru, all things considered.  "Even if I did think so, she'd disagree."  Sparing a moment to cast Sesshoumaru a calculating look, Cain shrugged.  "Shouldn't you be more worried about your mate?"

Sesshoumaru broke into a very wan smile.  "Kagura is just fine," he maintained.

Cain snorted.  "Congratulations, by the way."

Sesshoumaru's vague smile didn't falter.  "Thank you.  I trust that you'll keep this between us, though.  We've yet to mention it to Toga or the girls."

"Pfft.  They're hardly stupid," he stated flatly.  "My best bet is that they already know."

"More than likely.  Even so, Kagura has planned a special dinner so that we can tell them all together once we get home."

"Keh!  I thought there was some sort of law against you spreading your spawn all over creation," InuYasha grouched as he stomped over to stand beside Cain.  "And if there ain't, there damn well ought to be."

"If there's not one against you, spreading your baka-gene, then there wouldn't be one against me.  I dare say at least my offspring use their brains for more than how to get out of trouble for their deviant behavior," Sesshoumaru retorted smoothly.

"It's been a while since I've broken out Tetsusaiga," InuYasha growled.  "Be happy to do it."

"Anytime, anywhere, ignorant half-breed."

"Well, that degenerated quickly enough," Cain muttered, taking the opportunity to step away from the brothers.

InuYasha grunted.  "I still hate him," he stated.

Sesshoumaru shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest.  "Why do you hate him?  Aside from your general penchant to be otherwise unpleasant, that is?"

That earned him as dark a scowl as InuYasha could muster.  "He's a bastard," InuYasha retorted.  "Kinda like you."

"Can't you two ever quit fighting?"

Sesshoumaru inclined his head as Rin and Shippou stepped up beside them.  "That would be a miracle," Shippou remarked, idly scratching his chin as he regarded the legendary Brothers of the Fang.  "Besides, life would be boring if they did, don't you think?"

She tapped Shippou in the middle of his chest with the back of her hand to shut him up before he became the target for the feuding siblings.

"Then again, I don't think that they're happy unless they're fighting, Rin," he said, ignoring her subtle warning.  "Kind of like dogs that way . . ."

"Shut up, Shippou," InuYasha growled.

"I remember back in the old days," Shippou went on.  "It's a miracle they never succeeded in killing each other.  I mean, to be completely unbiased, Sesshoumaru did hand InuYasha his ass a time or—Ow!"

Rin rolled her eyes and heaved a sigh as InuYasha balled up his fist and smacked Shippou upside the head.

"No, he didn't," InuYasha insisted, glaring at Shippou like he was just getting warmed up.

Sesshoumaru watched the escalating disagreement with a heavy dose of disgust that manifested itself in an even more bored than usual stare.

"Dance with me," Rin said, slipping her hand into his as she spared another moment to cast her mate a disgusted look that he completely missed since he was busy, backing away from InuYasha.

Sesshoumaru said nothing as he allowed his daughter to lead him toward the dance floor.  After all, what needed to be said when the whole thing was pretty well par-for-course in the family, anyway?


"He's a little too close, don't you think?"

Valerie pressed her lips together in an effort not to smile as she watched Garret scowl across the dance area.  She didn't have to ask to know exactly who her brother was talking about, either.  "They're fine," Valerie stated instead after sparing a glance over at Kaci Lea and her current partner, Christian Billings.

Garret snorted indelicately.  "They are not!" he insisted, tightening his grip on Valerie's hand.  She winced then wiggled her fingers to remind him that he needed to loosen up.  "He's got his hand on her ass!"

"It's her waist, Garret," Valerie corrected as her smile finally leaked out.  "Now stop acting like an overprotective brother."

"I'm not an overprotective anything," Garret retorted hotly, taking a moment to pin Valerie with a chagrined glance before seeking out the dancing teens once more.  "That's it.  I’m going to cut in."

Catching his hand and pulling him back before he had a chance to make good on his threat, Valerie rolled her eyes but laughed.  "You'll do no such thing, Garret," she chided.  "Humiliate her like that, and she'll never talk to you again."

"How would that be humiliating?" he shot back with a loud snort.  "He's a damn poser!  She'll thank me for it later."

"No, she won't," Valerie insisted, grabbing Garret's arm when he abruptly tried to walk away.  "It's my wedding reception.  Don't you dare ruin it by starting a fight with Christian Billings."

It was almost comical, just how torn Garret looked.  On the one hand, he didn't want to just let it slide on principle, Valerie supposed.  On the other?  Well, he certainly didn't want to be the reason why Valerie would be upset at her own wedding reception, either.  It didn't leave him with much of a choice, and he'd figured that out, too, judging from the look on his face, anyway.

"Come on," she said, taking his hand and dragging him away from the dance floor as she scanned the crowd for her new husband.  Cain had warned him to stay away from Valerie if he couldn't control his desire to ditch the wedding reception, and surprisingly, Evan had complied.  Of course, he'd managed to steal the stage from the string quartet that had been hired to provide the music for the day, but only for a couple songs, and surprisingly, he hadn't played anything raunchy—yet, anyway.

Still, Valerie felt like getting things moving along.  As much as she was enjoying herself, she had to admit that maybe, just maybe, she'd had enough excitement for one day.

"Where are we going?" Garret asked though he didn't try to pull away.

Valerie just smiled at him and let go of his hand.  Satisfied that he wouldn’t run right back to cause a scene, she paused long enough to kiss him on the cheek before moving off to find Evan once more.

It took her a little longer than it might have otherwise since she couldn't get far without being stopped to accept congratulations and well wishes.  When she finally found Evan, though, she stopped, her smile brightening as she paused to watch while the man in question danced around with Olivia in one arm, Takara in the other, and Tanny hanging down his back, her thin arms locked around his neck.  Somewhere along the line, he'd lost the jacket for his tux, and the sleeves of the pristine white shirt were rolled up casually.   All in all, she figured it was one of the cutest things she'd ever seen, and now that she'd found him, she was loathe to interrupt him, too.  Evan with children . . . it seemed so natural, didn't it . . .?

The song ended, though, and Evan gave each of the girls a sound kiss on the cheek before setting them back on their feet once more.  Then he stood back and watched as they ran off together, a sweet cloud of high pitched giggles and lace and taffeta and slightly scuffed Mary Janes.   As though he sensed her presence, and maybe he had, he turned to face her.  He wasn't smiling, but he didn't have to.  The brightness in his gaze was enough, and he stuffed his hands deep into his pockets as he started toward her.

"Fancy meeting a hottie like you here," he teased, finally letting the smile that had heightened his gaze slip down to encompass the rest of his face.  "Are you having a good time, baby?"

Valerie laughed and let him draw her into his arms.  "I'd be having a better time if you weren't trying to avoid me," she teased.  "Have you danced with every woman here but me?"

He chuckled.  "I danced with you," he replied.  "Besides, all I've wanted to do was to drag you the hell out of here, so I figured that I'd do better to stay away from you—at least, till you're ready to blow this popsicle stand . . . Are you?"

Leaning up to kiss him, Valerie sighed.  What she meant to be a quick peck apparently didn't coincide with Evan's ultimate plan as he captured and commanded the kiss, as he pulled her a little closer, as he breathed with her.  The gentleness behind his every movement drew the sting of tears to her eyes, and Valerie felt it: the overwhelming sense that there was nothing else in the world that would ever compare to that moment, that insular second.  No matter how fleeting, how capricious life
could be, right in that place, in that time, she knew—knew—that there were no such things as regrets when it came to Evan Zelig, because the promise that she felt might well be unspoken, but it was as clear to her as anything ever had been or could be.

"Damn it," Evan complained, turning his head to the side, breaking the kiss and the magic of that moment.  "I knew we should have eloped."

She collapsed against him for a few seconds, gathering the composure that he'd managed to obliterate with a simple kiss.  It took another few seconds to find her voice again, and, with a deep breath, she leaned away to smile up at him.  "What do you say we wrap things up then?"

He blinked.  "Sounds interesting.  What do you have in mind?"

She gave a shrug, but her smile didn't wane.  "Come on," she said, taking his hand and leading the way toward the stage.

He helped her climb the stairs after she'd retrieved the real bouquet.  The silk replica keepsake one that exactly matched was already tucked away in the closet back home.  He saw it, and, with a nod, he stepped over to stop the musicians before reaching for the microphone.  He must have figured out what her ultimate plan was, because he chuckled softly, waiting to get everyone's attention before speaking.  "Sorry to interrupt," he said, his grin widening as he took her hand again.  "My new wife is ready to drag me out of here so she can have her way with me, but before we take off . . . Single ladies?"

"You're such a dog," Valerie mumbled, rolling her eyes despite the smile that still lingered on her face.  "Why are you such a dog?"

"Dunno, baby," he quipped.  "Why were you in my bushes?"

She snorted, but the sternness that she was going for was completely destroyed when she laughed.  "You are not allowed to ask me that today," she pointed out.

He smacked an obnoxiously loud kiss on her cheek and grinned unrepentantly.  Then he turned his attention back to the females that had gathered near the stage.  "Okay, V.  This is your part of the show.  Just do your brother a favor and aim away from K, will you?"

Valerie laughed and paused long enough to glance at the girls.  Kaci Lea aside, there really weren't many, but most especially, there was definitely one missing . . .

"Madison Cartham, you're supposed to be over here!" Valerie proclaimed, leaning over and bending down to speak into the microphone that Evan was still holding.  "Where is she?"

It took a moment to spot the conspicuously missing maid of honor, and when Valerie finally did, she bit her lip to keep from giggling.  Madison was sitting at a far table, deep in conversation with Mikio Izayoi and seemingly hadn't heard what was going on.

"Oh, she's there . . . Mikio, drag her over here, will you?" Evan added.

Madison turned and looked at the couple, and even from the distance, Valerie could tell that she sighed.  But she stood up and said something to Mikio before casually moving forward through the maze of tables.

"Don't aim for me," Madison teasingly called out as she stopped beside Chastity and Charity Inutaisho, much to the amusement of the listening crowd.  Bugs shouldered his way over to stand on Madison's other side, waving his hands, motioning at himself in a wild ploy to get Valerie to toss the bouquet to him.

Satisfied that everyone who should be there had stepped forward, Valerie winked at Madison and turned around.  Then she tossed the bouquet over her head as hard as she could.

"Wow," Evan laughed, shaking his head as the one woman who hadn't wanted to catch the bouquet ended up with it in her hands.

Valerie turned around and lifted a hand to flutter at her lips with a soft laugh when she spotted Madison, shaking her head as she stared at the bouquet she'd caught anyway.  "So what do you think?" she asked Evan.

Evan shrugged.  "Not too sure that'll happen," he remarked.  Then he chuckled.  "Eh, you never know.  Maybe she's got some guy on the backburner that we don't know about."

Something about the way Madison was talking with Mikio, though, and the memory of Madison's expression when Valerie had asked her about their time alone on the beach last night, though . . . But then, maybe Madison was right.  Maybe she was reading too much into it since she was, as Madison had so eloquently put it, so disgustingly in love with Evan that it was making her see things that weren't really there, after all . . .

"Come on, guys," Evan called.  "Now I get to do the fun part."

"Flipping a garter belt is fun?" she countered.

His cheesy grin widened.  "Baby, removing any kind of clothing from your sexy-assed body is fun."

She heaved a sigh.  "I should have known."

Poor Mikio was literally dragged over to the area by Morio, who ended up standing behind him since Mikio kept trying to back away.  Christian Billings wandered over, prompting Garret to join in, too, if only to keep that particular guy from catching the garter belt.  Most of the men, Valerie didn't actually know, and that was fine, too.  Even Bailey and Daniel were pushed into the crowd, much to Valerie's amusement.  The only bachelor that Valerie knew of who didn't step forward was Gunnar, but even not knowing him well, she wasn't surprised that he'd refrain from such a display.

Propping her foot up on a nearby amplifier, Valerie hiked up her dress amid catcalls and whistles, many of which came from her new husband.  Then he leaned down, grasping the garter belt in his teeth and tugging it down her leg.

Fighting back a pretty flush, Valerie laughed as Evan finally gave up, using his hands to finish slipping the belt off.  "What do you think?" he asked with a wink as he hooked the belt over his fingertip and pulled it taut with his free hand.

"You're not supposed to aim for anyone in particular," she reminded him.

Evan chuckled, clearly aiming for his uncle, Mikio, who was still trying to back away from the assembly of bachelors.  Valerie rolled her eyes but laughed, giving his arm a quick nudge upward when he released the garter belt.  "V!" he protested between bouts of laughter.

It flew in a high arch, well past the intended gathering, off to the left—toward a few men who were standing on the outskirts of the crowd, deeply involved in conversation.  "Uh . . . Oh, my," Valerie murmured as the garter belt fell directly into the open hand of one Gunnar Inutaisho, who had said-hand held out, as though he were trying to make some specific point.  The hush over the crowd slowly gave way to amused chuckles as people started to realize just who had actually caught the garter belt.  Gunnar seemed to stare at the keepsake for a moment before trying to hand it off.  All of the guys around him, however, were already married, so he wasn't having much luck.

"I couldn't have done that again if I tried," Evan quipped, looking inordinately pleased with himself over the entire situation.

Valerie giggled.  "He really looks offended, doesn't he?"

"Damn straight.  Anyway, should we just do a generic thank you and sneak out of here?"

She considered it for a moment then nodded.  "As much as I loved everything today, I think . . . I think I'd rather be alone with my husband now."

He considered what she said for a minute, breaking into a slow grin that spread over his features in isolated moments.  The lopsided, almost shy brilliance of his smile, the brightening of his deep blue eyes like a million stars dancing over the evening ocean waves—everything . . . "Me, too, baby," he said, his voice tinged with a husky quality, an understated emotion.  "Me, too . . ."

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Yay for MediaMiner's site updates! Reviews are again working, so feel free to drop me a quick line!
Two more chapters and an epilogue to go, so woo hoo!  Sorry for the delays.  Between moving to a "new" house, having my appendix rupture, and losing my daddy, it's been a really rough year.  But I'm finally feeling "myself" again, so let's see where we're going to go from here!

Taija: Youkai exterminator.  Sango was often called this.  Sami calls Kurt this regularly since she did not find out his name for a good while in her story.
Onii-tama: This is the way Takara addresses Ryomaru, and we can only assume that he was having some weird visions of grandeur when he decided that this was a fitting way to address him.  LOL!
Ani-tan: This is the way Takara addresses Kichiro.
Nii-tan: This is the way Takara addresses Mikio.
Jiji: This is what Toga would call his uncle, InuYasha.  Basically, he's calling him an old man lol.
Kaa-san: Mom.
Tou-san: Dad.

'Summer of '69' by Bryan Adams originally appeared on the 1984 release, Reckless.  Copyrighted to Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance.
== == == == == == == == == ==
Thought from Evan:
Can we get on with the sex yet…?
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge):  I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga.  Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al.  I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

Chapter 225
Chapter 227
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